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Jumhuriyyat al-'Iraq, The Republic of Iraq

Last modified: 2005-08-06 by joe mcmillan
Keywords: stars: 3 (green) | writing (arabic) | allahu akbar | takbir |
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[Iraq] by Pascal Gross and Graham Bartram
Adopted 13 January 1991; modified 28 June 2004

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Description of the Iraqi Flag

Description: Horizontally divided red-white-black flag with three green stars and the takbir in green placed horizontally in the white strip. The hoist of the Iraqi flag should be at the viewer's right, as it is the case for Saudi Arabia and Iran, two other flags featuring Arabic writing (which reads from right to left).
Use: on land, State and war flag, at sea, civil, state and war ensign.

Colour approximate specifications (as given in Album des Pavillons 2000 ):

  • Red: Pantone 185 c / CMYK (%) C 0 - M90 - Y 75 - K 0
  • Green: Pantone 355 c / CMYK (%) C 100 - M 0 - Y 95 - K 5

Symbolism of the Flag


The Iraqi flag has what are known as the pan-Arab colors, black, white, red, and green. For a discussion of the history and symbolism of these colors, see Pan-Arab Colors.


One thing that has puzzled me is the existence of the three stars on the Iraqi flag. What do they represent? According to Yehiam Padan (1998), the three stars represent the aspiration for unification with Egypt and Syria, but is it so? I always thought that the stars represented the three ethnic groups of the population (Shia' Muslims, Sunni Muslims, and Kurds).
Dov Gutterman, 6 April 2003

That they represent the desire for unification is what all my sources say, except for Barraclough, who doesn't say a thing. It seems to me that stars in Arab flags generally point to supranational unification attempts (except in "crescent and star").
Ole Andersen, 6 April 2003

This is what my sources say also with regard to Arab aspirations, and according to my info (gathered from various places) Iraq flew the tricolor with three stars from 1963-1991, Syria from 1963-1972, and Egypt from 1958-1972. After the attempt to create a supranational Arab entity failed, it is more than likely that Iraq replaced the original meaning with a new interpretation.
Christopher Southworth, 6 April 2003

The three-star flag was introduced by the Baathist government. The Baath is a secularist Arab socialist movement and would therefore be most unlikely to symbolize the existence of any religious sect or non-Arab ethnic group in its choice of flag designs. Even before the rise of the Baath, according to Phebe Marr's Modern History of Iraq, Iraqi governments have long tried to eradicate subnational loyalties wherever possible as a way of solidifying support for the (Sunni-Arab-led) unitary state. Far more likely, therefore, that a government committed to pan-Arabism (as the government that adopted the three-star flag in 1963 was) would choose to echo the symbols chosen by other pan-Arabist governments. Charles Tripp's A History of Iraq says (p. 173) that (in 1963), "Initially the new regime proclaimed a desire for unity with Egypt," and (p. 174) "The government entered into a tripartite commitment to unification with Egypt and Syria in April 1963" after a coup in Damascus brought a Baathist government to power there. According to one website on Iraqi flags [no longer on-line] the three stars stood for the three countries of the proposed union when the flag was adopted in 1963, but the meaning was changed to the three words of the Baath motto, "freedom, unity, socialism," after the 1968 coup that brought the Saddam Hussein faction of the party to power.
Joe McMillan, 10 April and 4 June 2003

Egypt and Syria formed in 1958 the United Arab Republic. The new republic adopted a flag made of three horizontal red-white-black stripes, with two green stars placed on the white stripe. The two stars represented the two states which constituted the republic. In 1961, Syria left the UAR but Egypt kept using the name of UAR and the flag until 1 January 1972. In 1963, Egypt, Syria and Iraq tried to constitute a new union, to no avail. The proposed flag for the union should have been the same as the UAR flag, but with three stars symbolizing the three states constituting the union. The union never existed but Iraq retained the proposed flag as its national flag. The official explanation of the three stars was they should remind Iraqi attempts to unify the Arab countries.
Ivan Sache, 13 July 2003

The Takbir

The takbir [Allahu Akbar (God is great) in Arabic script] in green was added to the 1963 flag during the Gulf War, 13 January 1991. The Arabic text may be read from right to left on both sides of the flag, which are identical.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 8 January 2001

As I noted before, the 1991 flag (and the arms) included the Allahu Akbar salutation in Saddam Hussein's own handwriting. Certainly, the new Iraqi government doesn't want to associate itself with the former dictator's calligraphy, but taking under consideration the overwhelming rejection of the recently proposed "blue" flag, got to modify the flag used universally by their people. Nothing better than using decorative Kufic script, which originated in Iraq, in the town of Kufa (one of the most important cultural centers of an early Islamic period) and is used extensively for the calligraphy of Qur'ans. It might look like a "block style", but, in reality, it is a venerable Kufic script, well known and admired by the Iraqi people.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 29 June 2004

On June 30 this design was raised over the Iraqi embassy in Washington when it reopened, and the adoption of this new design seems to be general for high-profile government use at least.
Richard Knipel, 27 August 2004